CBC admits wrongdoing for alleging contact between Smith, Crown Prosecutors over COVID amnesty

'We have updated this story and related pieces, removing references to direct contact between the premier's office and prosecutors,' reads a note from the editor.

CBC admits wrongdoing for alleging contact between Smith, Crown Prosecutors over COVID amnesty
Rebel News
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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith accused the CBC of publishing two 'defamatory' stories on her this year. One about alleged contact with Crown Prosecutors and another about her conversation with Calgary Pastor Artur Pawlowski.

The state broadcaster has since made significant amendments to the former, where they expressed "regret" over their claims against the premier, her office and the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS).

"As such, we have updated this story and related pieces, removing references to direct contact between the premier's office and prosecutors — which the premier has vehemently denied," reads a note from the editor.

"CBC News regrets reporting direct contact by email."

On January 25, Smith condemned the publication for publishing a "defamatory article" on rumours her staff sent crown prosecutors emails about the Coutts blockade.

In a release from the Premier's Office (PO), they claimed the article contains "baseless allegations" that an internal investigation by Alberta Justice proved false.

According to a Justice spokesperson, they did not find any electronic communication between the PO and the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS). They confirmed that all communications between the PO, Alberta Justice and public servants "have been appropriate" and "made through the proper channels."

Smith expressed confidence in their findings.

"I am grateful for the non-partisan review…by the Public Service Commission, which found no contact records between the premier's office and Crown prosecutors," she said.

"An independent Crown prosecution service, free from political interference, is integral to preserving public confidence in the justice system."

However, on May 18, Alberta Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler said Smith contravened s.3 of the Conflict of Interests Act for contacting the Attorney General concerning the second 'defamatory' story — a private phone call concerning the criminal charges against Mr. [Artur] Pawlowski.

Concerning the first story, Trussler found "no evidence of such an email," reinforcing the internal Alberta Justice investigation results.

On February 2, Smith conversed with Pawlowski, who vehemently expressed frustration with pandemic-related public health orders. 

"This should be no shock since I spent much time before and during my leadership campaign talking to hundreds of Albertans about COVID-related public health orders and violations," she said.

A Leger poll commissioned by Rebel News uncovered 73% of United Conservative Party supporters want pandemic prosecutions against pastors — including Pawlowski — and small businesses dropped by the Alberta government. Half of Albertans opposed such an amnesty.

While the premier publicly campaigned for seven months on exploring ways to grant legal amnesty for individuals charged with non-violent, non-firearms, pandemic-related violations, her office did not pursue amnesty after receiving a detailed legal opinion from Alberta Justice.

Smith clarified her discussions with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro on COVID-related charges and violations reflected her desire to "find a path of amnesty for those charged with non-violent COVID-related offences and violations during the pandemic."

"As I have explained before, I spoke with Minister Shandro, an experienced lawyer — I am not — as I was very interested in his advice on what could legally be done," she said.

"He advised me on the matter, and as the Commissioner has confirmed, I accepted it. It went no further after that."

"In the Commissioner's opinion, I had an inappropriate discussion with Minister Shandro regarding this subject. As to Mr. Pawlowski, the Court has rendered a verdict in his case, and the matter is now closed."

In April, Smith's lawyers sent the CBC a letter demanding a full retraction of the story, which they said "manufactures controversy." 

She previously called on the CBC to retract the "outrageous story" and formally apologize to the province, including non-partisan officials from the Alberta Public Service. Her lawyers reinforced the call to action, condemning the publication's "sensationalizing [of] a political narrative.

"With the Email Article now demonstrably baseless, the Premier and her office demanded a retraction and an apology from the CBC, including an apology to Alberta Crown prosecutors, for the harm done to individual reputations and Alberta's justice system," Smith's lawyers write.

The CBC head of public affairs, Chuck Thompson, defended the late corrections to the first story in a statement. 

"That's the time it took to do our due diligence," he said.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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